Saturday, May 25, 2013

FRA Legislative Update

Our good friends at the Fleet Reserve Association send out a weekly newsletter updating the goings on in Washington, DC. 

Here is the part of this week's newsletter relevant to our readers here:

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House Subcommittee Rejects Pay Cap, Higher Health Care Fees
The House Armed Services' Subcommittee on Military Personnel marked up its portion of the House version of the FY 2014 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA, H.R.1960) this week. The panel rejected the Administration's request to establish an enrollment fee for TRICARE-for-Life (TFL) and TRICARE Standard beneficiaries and increase TRICARE Prime enrollment fees and pharmacy co-pays. The subcommittee approved a 1.8-percent military pay raise for FY 2014 to keep pace with non-military salary increases, despite only a one-percent increase requested in the Pentagon's budget proposal. These are major legislative victories for FRA, however the battle to halt drastic increases to TRICARE fees, provide an active duty pay raise that's at least equal to the Employment Cost Index (ECI) and protect other benefits is just beginning. It's clear that FRA shipmates' voices are being heard on Capitol Hill.

The subcommittee's mark also includes provisions that would prohibit command authorities from dismissing all but minor sexual offenses from a court martial and/or reducing a guilty finding in a sexual assault case to a lesser offense. Numerous amendments on sexual assault are expected to be offered when the full House Armed Services Committee marks up the bill in two weeks.

Other provisions include:
·     Reducing overall military endstrength by more than 40,000, including a 7,100 reduction in Marine Corps manpower. (The Navy's manpower would increase by 900);
·     Mandating minimum notification of 120 days for mobilization of Reserve units;
·     Protecting child-custody arrangements while a military parent is on deployment;
·     Expanding Servicemember Civil Relief Act (SCRA) mortgage protections for service members, surviving spouses, and veterans;
·     Providing $25 million in Impact Aid for public schools impacted by military population; and
·     Prohibiting another round of base closures and realignments (BRAC).

The Senate Armed Services' Personnel Subcommittee begins markup of the Senate's version of the bill on June 11, 2013. Once both chambers approve their respective versions of the NDAA, a conference committee will be appointed to reconcile the differences between the House and Senate bills.  Members are urged to use the Action Center at www.fra.org to share their views with lawmakers on these and other pending issues that impact their earned benefits.

For more details, read Tom Philpott's syndicated "Military Update" column (5-23-2013) at http://www.fra.org/AM/template.cfm?template=/CM/ContentDisplay.cfm&ContentID=15185&section=news

House and Senate Approve Stolen Valor Act
The House and Senate approved the FRA-supported "Stolen Valor Act" this week and the measure now awaits White House approval. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Joe Heck (Nev.), protects the integrity of military awards by making it a crime to knowingly benefit from fraudulent claims of military decorations. In June of 2012, the Supreme Court (United States v. Alvarez) overturned a previous Stolen Valor law on the grounds that it infringed on constitutionally-protected free speech.

This bill makes a key change to the previous language that should withstand constitutional scrutiny because the legislation narrowly focuses on those who seek to benefit from their misrepresentations of military awards - not the lie itself. FRA thanks the nearly 1,600 shipmates who contacted their senators on short notice this week, urging them to "fast-track" the bill for rapid approval by the full Senate. Your efforts paid dividends!

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VNVets

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